Bowing to growing public sentiment, organizers of the New York City Marathon have cancelled Sunday's race in the aftermath of this week's deadly storm, and will redeploy the event's resources to help storm victims, officials said Friday afternoon.
Organizers said that due to logistics, the event would not be rescheduled.
"Over the course of the week, it became clear that the marathon, which is really one of the very best days in the life of the city, which is a moment of unity and happiness and joy and a celebration of everything that is New York, had become divisive and had become controversial," said Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson. "Candidly, that controversy grew and that division grew over the course of the week and those of us who love this city and those of us who love this race recognize it wasn't the marathon if it wasn't a unifying event."
Critics had been pressing city officials and race organizers to shelve the event, saying it would be an insult to those still struggling to find food, water or a place to live.
In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that while the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it has "become the source of controversy and division."
"The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination," the mayor said. "We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."
Appearing on NY1's "Inside City Hall" Thursday, NYRR President and CEO Mary Wittenberg said organizers would use more private contractors than previous years to ease strain on city services.
Speaking to reporters, Wittenberg ensured runners gathered in the city that the Marathon Expo will continue Saturday at the Javits Center.
Wittenberg also said that an animosity developed towards the runners who were planning to run in the race.
"What was happening now is that people were criticizing runners and there was really a dynamic that was really getting to be a really unhealthy dynamic and a perception about runners and marathoners and people coming here that was not healthy," Wittenberg said.
Wittenberg said that resources devoted to the race would be redistributed to areas of the city impacted by Sandy.
"We've literally taken some of our very event guys, who've been working on every contingency in planning the marathon, they're now planning the deployment of all their resources to make sure we can do as much as we can," Wittenberg said. "Especially at Fort Wadsworth. We've got a tent set up, we've got a lot of Port-a-Johns, we've got other things that we think can be helpful."
The 26.2 mile race would have taken runners from the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before ending in Central Park.